Fear of snakes and spiders are common animal phobias. Emotion regulation can change the response to emotional stimuli, including snakes and spiders. It is well known that emotion regulation modulates the late positive potential (LPP), which reflects sustained motivated attention. However, research concerning the effect of emotion regulation on the early posterior negativity (EPN), which reflects early selective attention, is scarce. The present research question was whether the EPN and LPP amplitudes are modulated by regulation of emotional responses to snake and spider stimuli. Emotion up- and down-regulation were expected to enhance and reduce the LPP amplitude, respectively, but emotion regulation was not expected to modulate the EPN amplitude. Female participants passively viewed snake, spider, and bird pictures, and up- and down-regulated their emotional responses to the snake and spider pictures using self-focused reappraisal, while their electroencephalogram was recorded. There were EPNs for snakes and spiders vs. birds, as well as for snakes vs. spiders. The LPP amplitude tended to be enhanced for snakes and spiders compared to birds. Most importantly, the LPP amplitude was larger in the up-regulate than in the down-regulate condition for both snakes and spiders, but there was no evidence that the EPN amplitude was modulated by emotion regulation. This suggests that emotion regulation modulated sustained motivated attention, but not early selective attention, to snakes and spiders. The findings are in line with the notion that the emotional modulation of the EPN is more automatic than the emotional modulation of the LPP.

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doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2018.05.010, hdl.handle.net/1765/107410
International Journal of Psychophysiology
Department of Psychology

Langeslag, S., & van Strien, J. (2018). Cognitive reappraisal of snake and spider pictures. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 130, 1–8. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2018.05.010